Subcommittee approves Commerce, Justice, Science spending bill

A House Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday reported out the third of 12 annual spending bills for fiscal 2015, covering the departments of Commerce and Justice as well as the science agencies. 
The bill was approved by an apparently unanimous voice vote and will head to full committee consideration where amendments and more lively debate can be expected.
The bill provides $51.2 billion in funding, a cut of $398 million below the current level. 
The Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Science Foundation, Bureau of Prisons, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) all get increases in funding.  
To help pay for the increases, the bill eliminates several dozen small programs for a savings of over $250 million, cuts grants by $73 million and rescinds unspent past funding. 
The bill is the last for subcommittee Chairman Frank WolfFrank Rudolph WolfDOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling Vulnerable Republican keeps focus as Democrats highlight Trump Bolton could be the first national security chief to prioritize religious freedom MORE (R-Va.), who is retiring after serving in the House since 1981. Members on both sides of the aisle spent nearly an hour praising Wolf for his legislative skills, bipartisanship and championing of human rights.
Wolf in his opening remarks made a plea for prison reform. The bill continues funding for a new task force, pushed by Wolf, to study reforming prisons. The Chuck Colson task force is to look at mandatory sentencing and other ways to stem the booming increase in mass incarceration.
"The prison system needs a major reform and I think this is the opportunity to do it," Wolf said.
Full committee ranking member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) offered a muted critique of some elements of the bill.
She decried a rider that forbids implementation of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, which is opposed by the National Rifle Association. The provision appears to have a loophole in that it only forbids implementation until the Senate ratifies the ATT, however.
She also opposed the cut to the community policing COPS program, which she said faces a cut of $118 million.